In the living room hung a single original work of art: pink blossoms, dark gray branches, a calm composition of nature's beauty, all hand-painted strokes of ink. I don't know where the painting is and any trace of it has disappeared.
Growing up, I didn't know that my mother painted at some point before being a parent. And it was during her earlier years as a grandmother when she decided to tell me about the original piece in the living room. She spoke briefly about technique and chose to say little else. I had hoped the moment would last a bit longer.
Remembering when I first met Emily, it was May 2017 at Yankee Stadium with Casey wearing his Red Sox hat, celebrating graduation day - fun, beautiful, brave, happy, brilliant. With the warmth of their connection, I asked Casey about the design of their engagement ring and began working... sketching larger circles followed by smaller ones, playing with gold on white.
Then, using the circle motif in "renewal" (2018), I began to paint: first in black (ink purchased in China); then, in gold with rings that reflected canvas no. 1 with no. 2, canvas no. 3 with no. 4. To balance the spaces between brush strokes, other elements were added: dried flowers (mother-daughter); a variety of red and green beads (Christmas); red pigment to stamp the Ho/Yang chinese characters on rice paper (art signed GYang); white and violet (NYU colors); yellow and blue to make green (the color of Emily and Casey's couch). Four pieces, each entitled, "engaged" -- art elements, moments with loved ones, memories we share -- apart/together, awaiting new stories to be told.
Cheers, Casey & Emily (engaged no. 1 & no. 2)
Merry Christmas, Tran Family (engaged no. 3 & no. 4)
"For Mom... painting her blossoms before I knew how" (2015)
In time, she showed me how.
This morning, Ken pinged my whatsApp with a NYT article; in brief, they ran the presses to say the institution of marriage is fading. I messaged him back our usual, 1234 before taking the next few minutes to read the news. Which brings me here, how far back do I go.
Seven months and 7 days after our first date. In the winter of 1990, the proposal of marriage did not happen by tradition. Quiet, cold, evening - just the two of us. He said, I want to spend my life with you. Me, what?! Then, flowing with the spontaneity of the moment, he gave me an invisible ring as a place holder. After it skipped a beat or two, I gave him my heart. Me, Yes! Three years later, the wedding took place only because we canceled the elopement. More recently, I lost the heart-shaped diamond that sat squarely on my engagement ring. We searched everywhere. I crawled on the kitchen floor and did not find it. I insisted, No, please don’t replace it. No diamond would ever measure up to invisible.
As we approach the end of our renovation project, the one person who has stood by my side is still here. Long before the purchase of our property at 121 Vance Street (Clinton, NC) in June of 2019, we promised to spend our life together. In sickness and in health, the journey continues. Onward, peeps ❤️❤️❤️❤️
NYT article: The Married Will Soon Be the Minority https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/20/opinion/marriage-decline-america.html?referringSource=articleShare
Younger me believed in keeping my birth name as I grew into adulthood. I imagined my medical degree, white lab coat, name tags... the usual identifiers labeled with "Dr. Ho" in honor of my family. At 21, I had not planned on finding a friend who would embrace what it means to keep my family name. As a tribute to us, I sign all art-work GYang - a reflection of me, Ken and our life together.
In the art world, consider the name given to a painting; the title, even when labeled "untitled" suggests something about the work. Each painting holds stories not only about the art and its artist, but also stories imagined by its viewers. The deeper impact, beauty and wonder exist in these stories that live beyond the title and visual first impressions.
Recently finished: "finding common ground" (#BLUE no. 5, 6, 7) - 3 side-by-side canvases, each 24x36" mixed media (black inks, chalk pastels, dried flowers, glass beads, acrylics)
So when we meet, after that first, "hello, my name is..." I hope to have the chance to swap stories. It's about understanding who we are, what we don't know, how we care for one another and choose to be together... imagine the stories we share.
Dedicated to strangers, the ones unafraid to walk this path with me, with us
-- Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders --
it's worth repeating, Thank You.
In February, I started my #BLUE series with familiar materials: dried flowers, black inks, red glass beads, acrylic paints & mediums to create “hydrangeas” (36x36” canvas, #BLUE no. 1). Since then, I’ve been using varying sizes — 6x6” (each, no. 2, 3); 20x60” (no. 4); 24x36” (each, no. 5, 6, 7); 30x40" (each, no. 8, 9); 8x10" (each, no. 10, 11); 36x60” (no. 12) — to explore new ideas.
While working in my art studio, I listen — to the news, music, friends, family, or nothing but the movements around me: wheels of my easel rolling, birds living outside, Jinx barking at the delivery truck in our driveway, the tired hum of our 15-passenger van bringing Ken back home. And sometimes when I’m not painting, I’m reading. Admittedly old-school and nerdy, turning paper pages of hard-covered books and medical journals that arrive by snail mail are my favorites. Creating, working, listening, reading, learning... all reminders that I’m lucky to have another day.
Art reflects life — feelings & emotions, thoughts & actions, places & moments, friends & strangers. These days, the process of using blue in my art inherently reflects sadness: too many lives lost and devastatingly impacted by extraordinary events. I miss seeing smiles on faces, going to faraway places, being with you in person, doing seemingly ordinary things. Focusing on blue may seem ordinary, that is, before that initial curiosity grows with exploration. Then, using navy blue in series to reveal its potential — vast, far reaching, deep, peaceful, calming — becomes an unexpected source of joy.
As winter approaches, I’ll continue to take breaks from extraordinary. Look and listen in spaces without noise. Be curious. Choose from my stacks of favorites. Read. Explore new ideas. Learn. Make art. And hope you’ll find joy, perhaps even in something blue.
View process photos for #BLUE series, updated in Gallery.
Please continue to take care, be safe, stay well and mask up.
With deepest gratitude and love, this is dedicated to Dad (R.I.P. Sept. 2019) and Mom
...married 50+ years today.
As an artist, my work reflects life.
As a retired family physician, my mission to serve people
from different walks of life remains a purpose.
Amid the pain, suffering, dying and deaths, my heart aches for humanity.
I remain hopeful for better times when I see small and big acts of kindness
happening in neighborhoods, communities, nations ...all over the world.
Healing takes time.
** We're asking for patience & kindness from our community and wishing our 121 Vance Street project partners much luck with the start of demolition soon. **
Around 7am this morning, Ken took this photo on his way to work. By itself, it's a photo of a dumpster in a vacant parking lot, a quiet moment in downtown Clinton, NC. For me, seeing this photo, I'm hopeful for a brighter future.
I'm also feeling nervous, scared, sad and praying for the safety and health of everyone.
I'm saddened by the many lives lost and impacted by Covid19 and SARS-CoV-2.
I'm relying on experiences of past critical public health events that Ken and I have shared, working together in medicine and health care. And this reminds us, we're a couple of science geeks.
I'm trying to stay positive during this global pandemic.
I'm holding onto small & big sources of joy.
I'm making art.
I'm feeling lucky to have another day.
And I'm happy to see Ken come home at the end of each day. Our kids make me laugh and smile, always.
** We are grateful to have the love and support of family, friends, and a wonderful community. We miss seeing everyone. We're here, if there's anything we can possibly do for you. **
Please continue to take care of one another and stay well ❤️
** Grace & Ken **
Since 2003, I’ve been a “stay at home” parent. I decided to take a leave from the best job I ever had in order to spend more time with my kids. And being well aware of having privileges at the time, I’m most grateful for the unexpected moments... like when our 18-month old daughter said, “delicious” (not “yum” or “good”) to describe how lunch tasted.
My privileges (being married, being a parent, having a home, not being paid for working at home, etc.) included having had a job working 100+ hours/week, side by side with my friend, Ken to pay off school loans & a mortgage, save up when we could, and spend on extra things that nobody actually needs.
Of the extra things I thought I didn’t need, turns out “staying at home” has been the most important work I have ever known. Of the privileges, having extra time with my kids wasn’t extra. It was simply time. And if I’m lucky, what remains at the end of each day is another tomorrow.
This is dedicated to Kayla, our high school senior: oh my goodness, what a privilege it has been to be your mother! My love to you and your peers of today and tomorrow, may your days be filled with priceless “delicious” little moments.
To all the naysayers in my past...
I have dreamed, prepared, and set real life goals to get here.
I work hard, earn my keep
and I'm careful with what I earn.
I'm a bit exhausted, sometimes frustrated,
often times filled with joy and extremely grateful
for each person who knows.
As I look to the future, I'm taking this moment
to celebrate my love affair with art.
Happy Valentine's Day.
I love what I do.
It hasn't been easy.
But it has been fun, exciting, and deeply exhilarating
to defy all the naysayers who don't believe.
I am an artist ...because art matters ❤️
I'll be using these flowers, collected and dried over the last few years.
They reflect life events: births, weddings, anniversaries, friendships and deaths.
Dear young(er) artist,
At mid-life, I teeter on a blurry line between my youthful past and the golden years ahead. In this moment I'd like to pass on a simple mantra, artists make art. I heard it uttered by an art teacher as a kid, but didn't really get it until recently. In 2010 when I decided to make art my work, stepping outside the daily lines of work wasn't easy. After taking an intense sketchbook studio course in 2014, I learned to value the work of sketching as a productive art-making process.
No matter where you are between young and old, begin with a good hardcover sketchbook. Gather basic art supplies: pencils, pens, markers, pastels, paints, etc. ...and tape, glue, whatever else you'd like to experiment with. Then, consider these starting tips:
For viewing and learning, browse examples of my work available online:
With kind regards,
Thirty years ago, I laid eyes on him for the first time. I was too busy working, he kept going, and so we met only in my mind. A few years later in the spring of 1990, I remembered his face as he took the seat next to mine in Asian American Lit. He whispered that he forgot his copy of our class novel and asked to share mine. Days later when he forgot his book again, he was more interested in the scribbles on my notepad than the conversations happening in class. So when he started to write in the space beside my random sketch, I looked beyond his audacious reach and saw the words of a beautiful stranger who somehow knew my best-kept, best-friend secret of leaving marks on paper.
Those were the days when 'private messaging' came with the face-to-face thrill of meeting a new friend. As technology delivers bite-sized texts and character-limited tweets, I'm holding tight to one word that's slowly fading on my yellow paper: artist. Making art allows my hands to leave deliberate and purposeful marks on different surfaces to connect with another human. And when that one human becomes the person of my life, I hope the marks I leave will also keep our children connected. To this day, wherever he makes a point of sitting next to me -- in a restaurant, at the movies, on the soccer field bleachers -- I feel the luck of our twice-upon-a-lifetime first meeting in a classroom. So with him by my side, I'm working on a new series to feature hand-written messages that I'd like to keep from fading.
#breadcrumbs, FAMILY series
Owner of HYFA. Original art-work signed GYang. Artist, educator, and advocate ...because art matters. Retired Family Physician (MD)